The Photon satellite platform, right, is based on the kick stge of Rocket Lab’s Electron small launch vehicle. Credit: Rocket Lab

WASHINGTON — Rocket Lab announced March 16 that it is acquiring a Canadian smallsat component company as it seeks to build up its satellite division.

Rocket Lab said it will acquire Toronto-based Sinclair Interplanetary for an undisclosed sum. The company, founded in 2001 by Doug Sinclair, builds components such as reaction wheels and star trackers for small satellites. The company’s hardware has now flown on approximately 100 satellites.

Rocket Lab said that it will use Sinclair systems on its Photon line of smallsat buses, and that it will provide resources for Sinclair to scale up production of those components for sale to others.

“Doug Sinclair and his team at Sinclair Interplanetary are recognized as industry leaders and, like Rocket Lab, they produce best-in-class solutions that satellite operators know they can count on,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “We’re thrilled to welcome Doug and the entire Sinclair team to the Rocket Lab family, and we look forward to working with them on Sinclair’s continued growth and success.”

“Rocket Lab has played a pivotal role in making it easy for small satellites to access space. By operating as one company, we now have the opportunity to do the same for satellite manufacturing and make our hardware available to more customers globally,” Doug Sinclair said in the same statement. “We will be able to supply larger constellations than before, and take our hardware out to the moon and beyond.”

Beck has previously emphasized the importance of Rocket Lab’s smallsat business this year as the company seeks to move beyond just launch services. “Our focus this year is really all about the spacecraft, because that’s really the next big thing that needs to be solved,” he said in a February interview. “Most people know Rocket Lab as a launch company, but we’re very much focusing on being a space company.”

Rocket Lab announced the Photon bus last year, leveraging technology developed for the kick stage of the company’s Electron rocket. Beck said in February that the first Photon will launch some time in the second quarter of this year as a demonstration mission.

Photon will also play a role in the company’s first lunar mission. That bus will be used to help send NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat mission to the moon after launch on an Electron rocket next year, under a contract awarded to the company by NASA Feb. 14.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...